In the Evens Conference, Canterbury's 46-17 win over Northland has pushed them to 31, 10 points clear of Auckland who suffered their third loss when beaten 15-30 by Waikato.
Northland are third on 18.
In the Odds Conference, it is much tighter. Waikato, with a game in hand, is on 25 points while Hawke's Bay and Wellington both have 24 points having played seven games, with Bay of Plenty, also with a game in hand on 22 points.
Scores from the weekend were:
Tasman 19 Wellington 25
Luck wasn't with Tasman in Nelson on Wednesday. They lost their locks Quinten Strange and Mahonril Ngakuru within 10 minutes then Wellington wing Conor Garden-Bachop's had one of those 'make up for all the bad calls' smiles after his try. Despite putting his hand out of the field of play, the try was awarded to open the scoring in Nelson. But there was no doubt about their second, coming after Tasman's five-eighths William Havili couldn't find touch. Fullback Ruben Love, looked to run across field, then straightened and went right down the avenue to find lock James Blackwell for an inside pass. Blackwell moved the ball on for flanker Sione Halalilo to run in the try.
Havili pulled Tasman back to 12-15 down heading into the final quarter. But on cue, Wellington scored through prop Xavier Numia to capitalise on another storming break by hooker Asafo Aumua to give Wellington a scoring buffer. There was time for halfback Noah Hotham to take a superb inside pass from loose forward Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, after some Alex Nankivell handiwork through the midfield, for a consolation try.
Tasman 19 (Noah Hotham try; William Havili 4 pen; Taine Robinson con) Wellington 25 (Conor Garden-Bachop, Sione Halalilo, Xavier Numia tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 6-15
Waikato 30 Auckland 15
Waikato took their time to take points from their opportunities but, when their first try came, it was a classic blend of orthodox and adventure with hooker Rhys Marshall feeding wing Daniel Sinkinson in for the points. Auckland responded well with second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck taking an outside gap before feeding inside to fullback Jordan Trainor to score. The Damian McKenzie-Marshall combination struck to create a chance for fullback Tepaea Cook-Savage to show his class to score.
Trailing 10-20, Auckland charged down a McKenzie clearance for first five-eighths Harry Plummer to score. However, it was immediately negated when Auckland failed to secure the restart. Waikato won the ball and McKenzie's lob kick into the goalmouth evaded the defenders and Cook-Savage was on it in a flash to pass out to replacement Patrick McCurran who scored to wrap up the win. There was still time for McKenzie to knock over a 50m penalty to increase Auckland's pain.
Waikato 30 (Daniel Sinkinson, Tepaea Cook-Savage, Patrick McCurran tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, 3 pen) Auckland 15 (Jordan Trainor, Harry Plummer tries; Plummer con, pen). HT: 17-10
Hawkes's Bay 69 Southland 24
Southland, 102 years after being the first South Island team to win the Ranfurly Shield, got first points on the board after a break by halfback Jay Renton which saw the ball moved down the left flank for wing Rory van Vugt to step back to take an inside pass from centre Matt Whanga to score. But it wasn't long before Hawke's Bay upped the ante with prop Pouri Rakete-Stones running a superb angle in the midfield to score a try any centre would have been proud of. Then, Hawke's Bay's driving lineout maul took over to claim the lead which was extended by halfback Brad Weber, courtesy of a pass from Thompson. Southland fullback Robbie Robinson pulled a try back when holding a lovely offload from van Vugt. Thompson scored his second to give the holders a 24-17 lead.
In the second half it was one-way traffic as the Bay unleashed all their party tricks, including Thompson's hat-trick, on the end of a blindside pass, instead of from a maul. That fell for replacement hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes to pick up two more from the driving maul.
Hawkes's Bay 69 (Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tyrone Thompson 3, Brad Weber, Neria Foma'i, Ollie Sapsford 2, Kianu Kereru-Symes 2 tries; Lincoln McClutchie 7 con, pen; Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (con) Southland 24 (Rory van Vugt, Robbie Robinson, Viliami Fine tries; Marty Banks 3 con, pen). HT: 24-17
North Harbour 34 Bay of Plenty 48
Points were scored at run-a-minute pace at North Harbour Stadium with Bay of Plenty making the most of their effective lineout maul with hooker Kurt Eklund completing the second hooker's hat-trick of the weekend. While North Harbour flanker Cameron Suafoa was in the sin-bin, Bay of Plenty used their pack to extend the score to 31-13 with 30 minutes to play. But even restored to full strength, North Harbour couldn't contain the BOP lineout drive.
In the second half, when Bay of Plenty lost No8 Nikora Broughton to the sin-bin, North Harbour took their chance and first five-eighths Bryn Gatland was first to score in his 50th game for the side. Wing Mark Telea picked up dropped ball to step his way to an outstanding solo try while Suafoa completed the scoring with a strong sideline break.
North Harbour 34 (Luteru Tolai, Bryn Gatland, Mark Telea, Cameron Suafoa tries; Gatland 4 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 48 (Kaveinga Finau, Kurt Eklund 3, Naitoa Ah Kuoi 2 tries; Kaleb Trask 6 con, 2 pen). HT: 10-24
Counties Manukau 41 Manawatu 33
Making a rocket-propelled home start off a planned scrum move, left wing Peniasi Malimali sprinted an unerring line after a pass from halfback Cam Roigard to score between the posts. Manawatu halfback Logan Henry sniped around a ruck and was downed short of the line, but in the follow-up, hooker Siua Maile provided Manawatu's response. However, it was the home team who cut loose, even when reduced to 14 with lock Sam Slade sin-binned. They scored an outstanding try from deep within their own half when fullback Jared Page joined the line at speed in a movement that ended with second five-eighths AJ Alatimu scoring. Malimali scored another to rank with it. Page scored a second when a grubber kick he made rebounded off a player into his hands for him to score his second.
On the halftime hooter, Henry scored for Manawatu, something they built on in the second half as Counties Manukau could score only once when Roigard crossed from a long pass inside. However, two tries in the last four minutes pulled Manawatu up to a 33-41 loss.
Counties Manukau 41 (Peniasi Malimali 2, Jared Page 2, AJ Alatimu, Cameron Roigard tries; Riley Hohepa 4 con, pen) Manawatu 33 (Siua Maile, Veikoso Poloniati, Ed Fidow, Potu Leavasa tries; Brett Cameron 3 con; Sam Clarke con). HT: 33-14
Tasman 38 Taranaki 27
Tasman started hungrily in their second game of the week and while halfback Noah Hotham lost the ball when it was knocked from his hands diving for the line, a minute later he made no mistake after Tasman upset a Taranaki scrum allowing Hotham to pounce and score untroubled. Muddled Taranaki midfield play opened a chance and flanker Braden Stewart was put in a gap to clear out for a try. Hotham scored a second from a scrum move in front of the posts to give Tasman a 21-6 lead at halftime.
The lead was extended from the restart when Hotham and left-wing Macca Springer broke to the line where centre Levi Aumua powered across for the try. Taranaki revealed their running skills when replacement Meihana Grindlay, fullback Matt McKenzie and replacement Tom Florence combined to score their first of the game. Another sortie saw flanker Kaylum Boshier race down the sideline before feeding wing Kini Naholo whose footwork and speed did the rest. A classy linebreak by replacement back Fetuli Paea created the last home try for fullback Tomasi Alosio, while replacement Logan Crowley finished with a consolation try for the visitors.
Tasman 38 (Noah Hotham 2, Braden Stewart, Levi Aumua, Tomasi Alosio tries; William Havili 4 con; Campbell Parata con, pen) Taranaki 27 (Tom Florence, Kini Naholo, Logan Crowley tries; Daniel Waite 2 pen; Matt McKenzie 3 con). HT: 21-6
Wellington 32 Otago 26
Impressive support play led to the opening Wellington try by flanker and skipper DuPlessis Kirifi. Five minutes later, it was fullback Ruben Love's speed once receiving a short midfield pass that allowed him to score the next. Halfback TJ Perenara extended the lead to complete the first quarter after Love got close to scoring his second before Perenara finished the play. A tap penalty 10m from the line saw centre Josh Timu score Otago's first try 25 minutes into the game. Close quarter play from a lineout saw prop Xavier Numia claim another home try. Both teams lost a man to the bin after the halftime hooter, but Otago took their chance to drive hooker Henry Bell over for the try, 44 minutes into the half.
All Wellington could manage in the second half was two penalty goals to first five-eighths Aidan Morgan, but the scoring bridge was just too far for Otago's rolling maul tactics. Flanker James Lentjes had scored first with 28 minutes left then Bell scored his second with 16 minutes remaining. While Wellington suffered another yellow card they were able to hold on.
Wellington 32 (DuPlessis Kirifi, Ruben Love, Thomas Perenara, Xavier Numia; Aidan Morgan 3 con, 2 pen) Otago 26 (Josh Timu, Henry Bell 2, James Lentjes tries; Cameron Millar 3 con). HT: 26-14
Canterbury 46 Northland 17
Canterbury scrum power produced early reward for Canterbury with No8 Billy Harmon having some strong runs off the back and he crossed after 28 minutes for the first try. However, Northland responded with a try to lock Allan Craig. However, just before halftime Northland was penalised for dropping a maul short of their line and the penalty try was awarded.
Starting the second half first five-eighths Fergus Burke took Canterbury to a 10-point lead with two penalty goals. Then, their lineout maul took over for Brodie McAlister to score the first of two tries. A punishing Burke break took play to the Northland line and from the ruck it was wing Ngatungane Punivai who got over in the corner. Northland wing Heremaia Murray got a try break after a knock-on by the home team but then McAlister and Punivai each score again to assure the win.
Canterbury 46 (Billy Harmon, Brodie McAlister 2, Ngatungane Punivai 2 tries; Penalty try; Fergus Burke 4 con, 2 pen) Northland 17 (Allan Craig, Heremaia Murray tries; 2 con, pen). HT: 14-10